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Food Ingredients

Volume 406: debated on Tuesday 10 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent representations he has received for (a) industry bodies, (b) consumers and parent organisations, (c) hon. Members and (d) others, about the proposal for amending EU Directive 2000/13/EC on ingredients present in foodstuffs. [116358]

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is in regular contact with a wide range of interested parties, including representatives of industry, consumer groups, enforcement authorities and health professionals regarding the proposal for amending EU Directive 2000/ 13/EC on ingredients present in foodstuffs. Most recently, the FSA has received a number of representations from consumer and industry representatives, including concerns about the implications for labelling of some processed ingredients.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps are being taken by (a) his Department and (b) the Food Standards Agency to ensure that proposed amendments to European food labelling legislation do not require the labelling of products as containing wheat or egg if the only such presence is a derivative of the original substance which no longer contains the established allergenic component. [116359]

As currently drafted, the European Commission's proposal for amendments to European Union labelling rules would require not only that all derivatives of listed allergenic ingredients be declared in the ingredients list, but that the same allergenic ingredient, for example, wheat or egg, also be declared. In cases where the derivatives no longer have the potential to cause an allergic reaction, this additional information is unnecessary and could cause undue concern to allergic consumers. The Food Standards Agency has discussed this issue with interested parties and is supporting revision of the proposal to address this issue by establishing a list of derivatives for which the source allergenic ingredient would not need to be declared, pending evaluation of scientific evidence supporting a permanent exemption.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the impact of the proposal for amending European legislation on ingredients in foodstuffs on (a) coeliac patients, (b) those at risk of anaphylaxis, (c) those with special dieting requirements and (d) diabetics. [116360]

The Government have consulted widely on the European Commission's proposal to amend the European Food Labelling Directive 2000/13/EC, as regards indication of the ingredients present in foodstuffs. Its assessment of the implications has included consideration of the potential benefits to consumers, the implications for enforcement authorities and the potential costs to the food industry. Its view is that the proposed changes would be of particular benefit to consumers with anaphylaxis and with coeliac disease, because it will ensure food labels provide comprehensive information on those ingredients which are most likely to cause intolerance reactions. The proposal would also have a wider benefit for all consumers, including those with special dietary requirements such as diabetics, because it would remove the 25 per cent. compound ingredient rule, which currently allows declaration of a compound ingredient rather than its constituent ingredients, so long as that ingredient contributes less than 25 per cent. of the weight of the product.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether he has undertaken an assessment of the labelling changes for foodstuffs on the UK market, and other implications of the European proposal for amending Directive 2000/13/EC on derived ingredients. [116361]

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has consulted widely on the European Commission's proposal to amend the European Food Labelling Directive 2000/13/EC, as regards indication of the ingredients present in foodstuffs. Its assessment of the implications has included consideration of the potential benefits to consumers, the implications for enforcement authorities and the potential costs to the food industry. The Government are broadly supportive of the proposal, which will deliver benef ts to all consumers, but particularly to allergic consumers. As far as derivatives are concerned, however, the Government's view is that the proposal, as currently drafted, would require, in some cases, unnecessary, and potentially misleading, additional labelling as to the source of the ingredient. The Government are supporting revisions which would prevent this unnecessary labelling.The FSA continues to consult with interested parties as negotiations progress and to refine its impact assessment as amendments are made.